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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Once again, listeners, this is your incommensurably genial host John Derbyshire with news and views from around the world, brought to you from our state-of-the-art recording studio here on Taki's private island in the sun-kissed Aegean.
The sound engineers are at their consoles, my loyal research assistants are standing by to feed me the transcripts they have prepared, and the producer is making gestures through the glass wall there. I must say, the Greek gestures aren't at all like the American ones I'm used to. What does it mean when he does that thing with his finger and a closed fist? …
Never mind. We have the On Air light, so let's get the show rolling.
02 — How I came to stop worrying and not mind the Bomb. Wow, it's getting to be just like the Cold War! For a month or so now I've been reading articles about the looming Russian threat and the need to reinforce NATO.
Now here's an article in Live Science, which is some kind of science-for-hipsters web magazine, with a headline shrieking "Small" Nuclear War Could Trigger Catastrophic Cooling. From the article, quote:
Scientists modeled a war between India and Pakistan involving 100 Hiroshima-level bombs … [They] found the effects of such a war could be catastrophic … Global average surface temperatures would drop suddenly by about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, their lowest levels in more than 1,000 years … The ash that absorbed heat up in the atmosphere would also intensely heat the stratosphere, accelerating chemical reactions that destroy ozone. This would allow much greater amounts of ultraviolet radiation to reach Earth's surface … posing a threat to human health, agriculture and ecosystems on both land and sea … Colder temperatures would reduce global rainfall … This would likely trigger widespread fires in regions such as the Amazon, and it would pump even more smoke into the atmosphere.
Good grief! Get under your desks, kids! Duck and cover!
Here's the Radio Derb take on nuclear weapons: We're fine with them, just so long as the civilized world has way, way more of the suckers than the barbarians have.
If you want a definition of the word "civilized" I'd say nations whose rulers and legislators hold their positions by the consent of the governed, whose citizens live under laws that aren't bought or sold, and where different opinions on matters of state are freely and publicly discussed. Of present nuclear powers that would include the U.S.A., Britain, France, Israel, and India.
If we have lots more nukes than the other crowd, I sleep easy at night. That's pretty much it.
I'm actually quite sanguine about nukes. I grew up with those things. The Trinity bomb, that was the first ever nuclear explosion, went off when I was 42 days and six hours old. I wasn't in the neighborhood of the thing, but I'm sure all that radiation it released had some effect on my infant development.
Back in the fifties nukes were popping off all over like champagne corks at a wedding reception — in Central Asia, Siberia, the southwest U.S.A., Australia, and the Pacific. I used to work with a fellow who, in his service days, had been one of the soldiers lined up to watch Britain's Christmas Island H-bomb test. He didn't sound much impressed by it; but then, he wasn't exactly the most reflective person I ever met.
I used to worry a lot about nuclear terrorism. It seemed to me it couldn't be that hard to pull off. Then I read John Mueller's book Atomic Obsession, which pooh-poohs the idea, and I felt somewhat better. I still wouldn't be bowled over with surprise if it happened and we lost a city, and of course I'm all for doing whatever we can do to prevent it without violating our liberties; but hey, Japan lost two cities, and they were soon back in the game.
Tuesday this week our President, who presumably knows more about the probabilities here than I do, expressed himself worried about a terrorist nuke wiping out Manhattan. The Derbyshire estates in Long Island are right under the Manhattan fallout plume, so I wouldn't be too happy about that, either.
At last, though, we live in a world full of dangers and horrors, and we all end up in the same place at last. While we live, let's live. We should face up to the dangers calmly, without cowering or cringing or handing off our freedom and sovereignty to some international bureaucracy that promises to make all safe and well.
With ingenuity, courage, and some luck, we'll work our way through whatever the universe, or some crazy barbarian, throws at us. That seems to me to be the right spirit; that, and a determination to keep our little patch of the world free under fair laws.
So nukes, shmukes is what Radio Derb says — so long as we have more than the other guys. May it always be so.
03 — Land of the knout. I refuse to worry much about Russia, either. I'm sorry to keep pulling the age card here, but being supposed to worry about Russia is another thing I grew up with.
Actually, in my salad days, my elders were pretty much divided between those who worried about Russia and those who thought Russia was the vanguard of civilization and had solved all the problems we in the West were fretting about. Inequality? None of that in Russia! Poverty, crime, racism, corporate malfeasance? None of that over there! I was hearing this stuff from educated adults as late as the early 1980s.
We've forgotten now, but back in the day the U.S.S.R. was taken seriously as a competitor, and not just a military competitor. For a while around 1960 my Dad's newspaper, the Labour Party-supporting Daily Mirror, ran a series of lessons in basic Russian because everyone knew it would be the language, or co-language, of the future.
There was a notion going around, inspired by James Burnham's book The Managerial Revolution, that the West would get more socialist, the East would get more capitalist, and we'd meet in some kind of happy harmony.
It was all nonsense, of course. When the ideology fell away and the economic failure of communism became undeniable, common sense and a proper historical perspective reasserted itself. Russia's a big old nation with some glittering cultural achievements but a terrible burden of insecurity.
That insecurity is hard for Americans to appreciate. We live in a nation as remote and secure as a nation can be, with neighbors who are not even imaginably a military threat. Russia has land borders stretching across more than a hundred degrees of longitude, with Muslims, Mongols, Turks, and Chinese peering over them. Her borders aren't mountains, or rivers, or seas. Mostly they're wide-open grassland, forest, or tundra.
The Mongols, the French, and the Germans have at various times come sweeping in to plunder and destroy. There have been border fights with China and Japan, too — look up the Treaty of Nerchinsk and the Battle of Nomonhan.
It's a hard, cruel land. The winters are six months long. Russian peasants, the majority of the population, were serfs in bondage until 1861. Western Europeans looked on the place as dark and backward — "the land of the knout," it was called by English people. The knout was a ferocious heavy whip used for punishing serfs.
In the late 19th and early 20th century a softening and opening-up of society went on under statesmen like Sergey Witte and Peter Stolypin. If that had continued, Russia might have become a normal European country under rule of law. World War One happened, though, and Lenin's revolution, and all the good was undone. Russia came out of the nightmare more insecure than ever, with major continuing problems of corruption, economic feebleness, and demographic collapse.
So allowances need to be made here. Russia is Russia. If it's going to change, it will do so in its own good time. The best we can do to help the process is to speak out loud and clear for our own values, and to join with other countries to make Russia's elites pay some price in trade and status for violations of settled international order.
04 — That's so homosexual. Life teaches us that humanity is roughly divided into thing people and word people.
Thing people believe that the world is made of objects and creatures that have attributes and life histories of their own, regardless of what we may care to say about them; and that they change according to natural laws that operate whether or not we like their operations.
Word people take language to be supreme and believe that the world and the objects and creatures that populate it will behave themselves, in ways that are pleasing to us, if we just get the words right when we talk about them.
There are exceptions, outliers, and overlaps, but by and large conservatives are thing people while liberals are word people.
This came to mind while I was reading Steve Sailer's post the other day about this new effort to ban the word "homosexual." Steve is riffing off a New York Times piece headlined The Decline and Fall of the 'H' Word, subheading: "For Many Gays and Lesbians, the Term 'Homosexual' is Flinch-Worthy."
Quote from the New York Times, quote:
That five-syllable word has never been more loaded, more deliberately used and, to the ears of many gays and lesbians, more pejorative. "'Homosexual' has the ring of 'colored' now, in the way your grandmother might have used that term, except that it hasn't been recuperated in the same way," said George Chauncey, a Yale professor of history and an author who studies gay and lesbian culture.
I don't know where to start with that. How about with the phonetics? "Homosexual" has four syllables, not five. Professor Daniel Jones, in his classic Outline of English Phonetics, lists the sound represented by that "ua" as a diphthong, not two separate vowels. In his Appendix D, which deals with American pronunciation, he has nothing further to say about it, so I'll go with diphthong.
In the second place, as Steve points out, "homosexual" works for both sexes while "gay" just means males, so you have to twist your tongue all the way round "gay and lesbian," and even then you risk having some lesbian whack you with a pipe wrench for putting "gay" first.
And then, from "homosexual" you can form "homosexualist," making a nice and useful distinction. Homosexuals prefer intimate bonding with their own sex, and follow their inclinations discreetly and privately with a proper regard for the opinions of normal people. Homosexualists, on the other hand, are -ists, believers in an -ism, an ideology, which they insist everyone else affirm as true, good, and healthful. You can't really make an -ist word out of "gay," still less of course with "gay and lesbian."
Here I'm somewhat in the situation of the guy in the old joke who shocks a visitor to the house by uttering the word "manure." Says his wife to the scandalized visitor: "It's taken me twenty years to get him to say 'manure'." I like the plain old traditional English words that keep us close to the things they name. In fact I bear the proud distinction of having once used both of the words "buggery" and "bastardy" in the same sentence in a respectable publication.
So if the word people want to reform my thinking by getting me to say "gay," they've got uphill work to do. They can have my word "homosexual" when they prise it from my cold dead fingers.
In conclusion here, I just want to thank Steve for reading the New York Times so I don't have to.
05 — California in the Crimea. Speaking of Steve Sailer: The other day, being in a Cold War mood, I was reading the memoirs of Pavel Sudoplatov, who was a senior Soviet spymaster from the 1930s through to Stalin's death in 1953. If you want to check them out, it's a book titled Special Tasks, published 1994, passed on to me by a kind Russian friend.
Chapter Ten of the book has the very interesting title The Jews: California in the Crimea. With the Crimea in the news, that naturally got my attention.
Quote here from Comrade Sudoplatov, quote:
In 1944 and the first half of 1945, Stalin's strategic motivation was to use the Jewish issue as a bargaining chip to bring in international Jewish capital to rebuild the war-torn Soviet Union and to influence the postwar realignment of power in the Middle East. Stalin planned to use Jewish aspirations for a homeland to attract Western credits.
Now, if you know your Soviet history you'll know that there was already a Jewish Autonomous Region in the Soviet Far East, established in 1928. That was just meant as insurance against rearguard Tsarist terrorists, so-called "White" Russians, who were still operating in the region. The Bolsheviks wanted to shield that territory by populating it with people hostile to White Russians, especially Cossacks. Nobody was more hostile than the Jews. This territory wasn't a republic with its own representation in Moscow, only a region.
So in 1944, to get some Western money, this idea came up of a Jewish Soviet Republic in … yes, the Crimea. As it happened, at just this time the Tatar people had been deported from the Crimea for suspected sympathy with the Germans, so there was plenty of vacant real estate available. And the Crimea had been a proper Soviet Republic before the war, with strong Tatar representation; so administatively it was just a matter of swapping out the Tatars, who were now breaking rocks in Siberia, for Jews, who'd bring in some foreign investment.
Another quote from Comrade Sudoplatov, quote:
The plan to lure American capital was associated with the idea of a Jewish state in the Crimea — what we called California in the Crimea.
I don't quite get the California connection, but … I don't know California that well.
The whole scheme was discussed with U.S. Ambassador Averell Harriman, and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It was a live issue for a while. It fell through in mid-1945, though, when Stalin decided that infiltrating the Zionist movement would be more productive. Nothing came of it; Russian Jews never did get their own Golden State in the Crimea.
What's any of that got to do with Steve Sailer? Well, he's been writing a lot about the Crimea lately; and the themes of California and Jewishness are two that he's visited many times over the years. Come on, Steve; give us something about that Jewish California in the Crimea. If you can work David Brooks and Tyler Cowen in there, so much the better.
06 — Pomp and circumstance. The elected President of a constitutional republic is entitled to some displays of pomp and extravagance at the people's expense, I have no problem with that. A public inauguration ceremony; review of the troops; banquets for visiting foreign leaders; an occasional state visit abroad if there is some strategic purpose to it; I'm fine with those things. I do wish, as I've mentioned on Radio Derb more than once, that the State of the Union address would go back to being hand-delivered to Congress in written form — that thing has gotten way out of hand. A little pomp doesn't go amiss, though.
However, it needs to be kept under control, and under this administration it isn't. Mrs Obama's trip to China has been an absolute disgrace. She took the two Obama daughters and her own mother with her and they stayed at the Westin Chaoyang hotel in central Peking in a suite listed at $8,400 per night.
And that was of course the least of it. The Obama ladies dragged along with them an entourage of seventy — seventy — most of them security people. All this was at public expense.
First off, Mrs Obama is not an employee of our federal government. She has no constitutional position; and, since no-one ever elected or appointed her to such, it would be a disgrace if she did have one. She has no claim on the public fisc other than what she requires to keep up a decent appearance as the President's spouse.
Second, we maintain a large and expensive embassy in Peking. I have always understood that one of the functions of an embassy is to provide accommodation for visiting dignitaries from the home country. If Mrs Obama is unwilling to pay for her own holiday accommodations, I wouldn't mind the embassy putting her up as a courtesy, since presumably they have room, and security people permanently on staff.
Third, there is an old American expression too indelicate to repeat on a family podcast: let me just say it rhymes with "bigger pitch." It names an unattractive stereotype that the Obamas, if they had any sense of republican — that's small "r" republican — propriety, would strive mightily to avoid. Mrs Obama, time and again, just plays right into it.
Harry Truman purchased his own postage stamps. Calvin Coolidge audited the books for the White House kitchen. That's small-"r" republican virtue. How far we have fallen!
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Who she? Well, she the widow of Errol Flynn. [Clip: Twilight Zone music.]
We like Radio Derb to get as much notice as it can; but there are people out there you'd rather not be noticed by.
Item: All right, I'll admit, they got me with this one. Someone sent me the link and I read halfway through it before the scales fell from my eyes. I must have been short a cup of coffee that morning.
Here's the story as I read it, quote:
In what was described as a major ramping up of sanctions, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Tuesday that the United States had frozen Russian President Vladimir Putin's Netflix account, effective immediately.
Yes, I should have been more alert. It says something about the state of our national affairs, though, that even someone as wise, perceptive, and well-informed as myself could believe, at least for a minute or two, that this actually happened.
Item: Here's my headline of the week, from the International Business Times, quote: Man Caught with Three Human Tongues and Trove of Women's Underwear, end quote. How can you not read a story like that?
The dateline here is the city of Ibadan in Nigeria. The perp — we're not given his name — was detained by police after being caught with three severed human tongues and scores of women's bras, underwear and other clothes in various sizes.
What's going on there? Well, we also read that, quote:
In the vicinity, another man was also arrested by the police for reportedly possessing a booklet containing a list of human parts and their costs.
We are further told that, quote:
Earlier, a Nigerian restaurant was busted after it was revealed it served human organs.
I guess that could knock a couple of stars off your Michelin Guide rating.
So it looks as though what we have here is a revival of some old African customs. Let's hope they don't make it across the Atlantic to our own African population. Rap music is bad enough.
Item: Here's some news about the news.
Journalists are a smug lot, with a greatly inflated sense of their own importance. That doesn't apply to persons like myself — world-famous radio personalities who traffic in deep analytical commentary. I'm speaking of the supercilious hacks who put together your newspaper or TV news reports.
As I said, smug. A few years ago, when all the worried talk was of outsourcing, my journalist friends were all saying smugly: "No way they can outsource my job!" Sure enough, they couldn't.
The worried talk nowadays is of robots taking over middle-class occupations like accounting and paralegal work. Again, the journo-school crowd are scoffing that: "They can't robotize what we do!"
Guess what, Smuggo: they can. News report from the BBC, headline: Robot writes LA Times earthquake breaking news article. Text, quote:
Journalist and programmer Ken Schwencke created an algorithm that automatically generates a short article when an earthquake occurs. Mr Schwencke told Slate magazine that it took around three minutes for the story to appear online.
The LA Times is apparently a pioneer in this "robo-journalism" technology. They're also using it to generate stories about crime in the city, presumably with some special code in the algorithm to make sure the perps are never identified except as "teens" or "youths."
Other news organisations have experimented with algorithm-based reporting methods in other areas, particularly sports.
Now that would be a real loss to American culture. Howard Cosell, whom I once ran round a corner straight into, cigar and all, on Fifth Avenue, poor Howard must be turning in his grave. (I should say he was real nice — a gentleman — about the collison.)
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents; a laugh, a frown, a tear, and a restaurant serving body parts. All human life is here on Radio Derb!
Seeking some signoff music here keyed to the broadcast, I thought of a clip from Hank Williams' fine rendering of "The Angel of Death." On second thoughts, though, as I said, you really don't want to attract attention to yourself, not from that quarter. So let's have something cheerful to sing us out. Where's Gracie? There she is.
More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: Gracie Fields, "Sing As We Go."]